My Advice to New Notary Signing Agents
— by Tim Gatewood, CNSA, PLSA
Know your state’s laws and rules inside & out before you even consider offering notary services to the public. The Notary Law Institute and the National Notary Association can each help you with this, and there’s no substitute for reading everything you can that your state published on notary topics.
Pay particular attention to any Notary Handbook or Guide from your state, as well as rules from the Secretary of State or other notary administrator for your state, and any state Attorney General opinions that cover notary-related issues.
Get the ID Checking Guide (available from the AAN or the NNA) or the Keesing Documentchecker Guide (available from NR or the NNA). Be sure you have the latest edition of one of these books so you can verify the validity of any identificiation documents shown to you. The basic edition of the ID Checking Guide covers the USA and Canada; they also have an international edition that covers i.d.s from other countries. (Personally, I prefer the ID Checking Guide because it weighs less and is staple-bound, so it slips easily into and out of my bag. The Keesing book weighs more and is spiral-comb-bound.)
Get training from Notary2Pro (by Carol Ray) and the National Notary Association (NNA). If those don’t work for you or if you want more training, try the Loan Signing System by Mark Wills or Sign & Thrive by Bill Soroka (The Notary Coach).
Watch videos on YouTube from Carol Ray, Mark Wills, or The Notary Coach — to get some free education and to decide which style of teacher suits you best. You may learn better from a teacher whose style of training matches your own style.
Get certified and background checked from the NNA.
Join notaryrotary.com as a paid member and use their Signing Central and their (often very snarky) forum to qualify (research information about) prospective clients.
You can get a free Basic membership to notaryrotary.com if you choose. That does offer some benefits, including being listed in their directory and limited access to Signing Central.
By limited access, I mean you can see the list of potential hiring firms, but only their names and their rankings. From that, you could look each firm up online and do your own research as to how to contact them.
If you want to see their contact info there in Signing Central and/or you want to rate the firms you’ve worked for yourself, you will have to pay for a premium membership, which is currently $99.00 for the first year. That does come with a nice discount on supplies ordered from notaryrotary.com, a higher-ranked listing in their directory, and other benefits.
Join the National Notary Association, American Association of Notaries, Notary Law Institute, and the American Society of Notaries.
Each of these organizations offer a wealth of knowledge that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else, plus they have other benefits given only to members.
Be aware that many notaries who signed up for a directory listing on 123notary found that Jeremy (the owner) will call you whenever he chooses and quiz you. And some of his articles over the past few years have been very troubling. I stopped recommending that notaries get a listing on their directory because of Jeremy’s behavior.
Even so, there is a good deal of useful information in the forum and on the 123notary.com/s list and in the archives of the blog there. So, for research (which does not require a membership or a directory listing), you won’t find anything else to take its place.
Before you ask any questions online, on Facebook or anywhere else, grow a thick skin. Other notaries are not your co-workers — they are your competitors or they are in another state. So, some will respond to your questions in ways that may seem less than “nice.” They are still trying to help you or they would just scroll by and post no response at all.
If you want to learn from people, it does you no good to get defensive or to attack someone who’s doing you the favor of responding to your question. Every group on Facebook has hundreds of members and only a handful ever participate. So, cherish those who do, even if their style annoys you.
No matter how someone says something, do not take it personally. This is business and, in business, there are things that must be done, things that should be done, and things that will get you in trouble. If someone helps you learn which is which, count them as an ally.
When you post a question in any of the notary groups online, be sure to say what state you are in (unless it is a state-specific group) and whether you want answers only from people in that state. This will cut down on some of the confusion and save you time.
Post in the forums on NotaryRotary and NotaryCafe whenever you have a good or bad experience with a firm — those forum posts show up in Google searches (although not always on the first page).
If you’ve joined 123notary’s forum (despite the character and behavior of the owner of that site), post in that forum, too.
Comments on Facebook do not show up in Google searches.
Use Google to learn how to do research on Facebook and Google and YouTube. This will give you access to a wealth of information that you won’t have if you just post a question or two now and then in a notary group in Facebook. Doing research is the only way to learn beyond the surface and it’s a very important part of any successful business.
Read everything on 123notary, NotaryRotary, NotaryCafe, the American Association of Notaries, the American Society of Notaries, and the National Notary Association sites.
Buy and read and use Laura Vestanen’s ebook entitled Notary Marketing 2019, available for the Amazon Kindle for less than $10 before tax. Or, for a printed book, her previous one called Marketing Your Non-loan Notary Work has been a standard reference for over a decade. These are the best guides to marketing GNW and you can adapt much of that to marketing NSA work, too, if you’re clever enough.
Go to sba.gov and read everything there about starting & running a business. Read everything on that site, even if it does not seem immediately relevant, as almost all of it is going to help you sooner or later.
Use that site and/or score.org to get at least one SCORE mentor. Use the sba.gov site to find the closest Small Business Development Center and take their free classes. Sign up for the SBA, SCORE, and SBDC newsletters so you know about upcoming free training & networking events in your area or online.
Sign up for free classes in business at your local library. Attend the classes and take notes.
When my books become available for purchase, buy them & read them. (See details on my books on my Books page.)
Learn what these and other terms mean, as they’re commonly used in the NSA industry & you need to know them in order to understand online comments and conversations: SOS, GNW, NSA, refi, NR, NC, 123, NNA, AAN, ASN, SPW, CFPB, GLBA, RESPA, RTC, CD. Also, see this piece on what terms mean with explanations of many terms.
Read everything in my For Notaries category , starting with these articles:
That’s my advice in one big clump. 🙂
(This post was originally published in Sept 2017. I have updated it so that it is current as of February 2, 2020. I will post updates as I see fit. Please subscribe to this blog and keep reading the For Notaries category here for additional information. )